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Ugandan teachers continue nationwide strike over pay

September 18, 2013 (KAMPALA) - Ugandan teachers working for public schools continued a nationwide strike they began on Monday to demand for a 20% rise on their salary.

Monday is when schools were expected to open for the final term this year.

In 2011 the government had pledged to increase teachers’ pay by 20% but now says it has no money to effect the increment.

Several schools in the country remained closed or with pupils and students left unattended to in their classrooms.

Last week Uganda’s ministry of education, on getting news of the planned teacher strike, ordered government functionaries at the district level to ensure that teachers report to duty.

‘‘All teachers of Uganda are called upon not to sacrifice their professional ethics and abandon their learners at this critical moment,’’ said Jessica Alupo, Uganda’s minister of education.

‘‘Government directs all districts to ensure that all government schools open for the third term on 16th September 2013," she added.

But the teachers through their Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) responded by asking the education minister to resign.

“If the minister thinks that the job of chasing the teachers to go to class is easier and more productive than the job to go and look for money to pay teachers, she had better resign,” said James Tweheyo, Secretary General of UNATU.

On Monday, Ofwono Opondo, the Ugandan government spokesperson said President Yoweri Museveni was holding meetings with stakeholders on how to address the strike.

Uganda primary school teachers earn about 260,000 shillings per month (US$100) while their secondary school counterparts earn 400,000 shillings (US$ 150).

Teachers working in privately-owned schools earn much higher in Uganda than those in government schools.

The teachers have been complaining for years of poor pay saying their salary has remained the same even as the cost of living has risen.

But the Ugandan government has so far appeared unwilling to budge and cited that no funds are available to meet their demands.

“There is no money to pay the teachers as government has committed itself to infrastructural development including energy and roads,” said government spokesman Ofwono Opondo according to press reports.

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has also been quoted by local media as threatening to fire teachers if they do not return to work and replacing them with people from the ranks of the unemployed.

(ST)